Article Title:Broadcasting Standards and Lesbian/Gay Rights
Author or Credit:Craig Young
Published on:17th August 2003 - 12:00 pm
Story ID:95
Text:If someone wanted to complain about the content of Brian Tamaki's recent outburst on his Destiny Television TV2 slot, how would they go about it? I decided to review Broadcasting Standards Authority decisions related to lesbian and gay rights. I found a mixed bag. According to Principle 7a of the Code of Broadcasting Practice, broadcasters are not permitted to portray people in a manner which encourages denigration or discrimination on the basis of [other grounds and...] sexual orientation. However, there are exemptions for factual, genuine expression of serious comment, analysis and opinion. On the positive side, the BSA took a firm hand against TV3's distorted portrayal of the then-Anglican Dean of Dunedin Cathedral, Rev. Jonathan Kirkpatrick (Decns 1999/125-137). It upheld accuracy and balance breaches when TVNZ broadcast an item in which fundamentalist ex-gay activists Neil and Briar Whitehead were presented as experts on the "gay gene" controversy in a manner which lacked impartiality and suggested deceptive practice. More recently, when Prime broadcast "Going Straight", the BSA divided over questions about the credibility of so-called "reparative therapy", however (Decision 2000/152). It should be remembered that wowsers have tried to use the BSA to attack lesbian and gay broadcast content. Auckland Credo Society conspiracy theorist Barbara Faithful had initial luck over Access Radio's Gala programme when it referred to conservative Christians as "bigots" (Decn 1994/078). For the most part, their censoriousness has not been upheld. At the time of fierce debate about the Auckland City Council and Hero Parade, then-Deputy Mayor complained that he had been called a "moron" on TV's Ralston Group and Access Radio's (queer) G and T show. In 2000, the Christian Heritage Party complained about TV4's "Queer as Folk." The BSA didn't uphold their complaints (Decns 2000/087-090). When TVNZ screened "Priest," it didn't edit out gay love scenes that were broadcast after the watershed for adults only content at 8.30pm (Decn 2001/021). As a rule of thumb, the BSA won't uphold complaints or isolated comments by talkback show hosts or their guests. When Calum Sawyers complained about Radio Pathetic's unbalanced presentation of Briar Whitehead as an "authority" on the gay gene, and presenter bias, it was noted that most callers opposed Whitehead's antigay agenda, despite the bias of conservative host George Balani, who has since left the network (1995). As for Barbara Faithful, later complaints have been dismissed. She complained about a gay male correspondent on Radio New Zealand's "Sunday Supplement" (Decision 2000/034). Even her fellow social conservatives find her embarrassing now- witness Auckland Newstalk ZB host Leighton Smith's exchange of faxes with La Faithful which led her to issue a complaint that wasn't upheld either (Decision 2000/103). Nor was another complaint against Radio New Zealand's Question of Religion, when another fundamentalist respondent objected to the choice of liberal Presbyterian academic on Dr Maureen Garing's programme about the theological status of homosexuality within the Presbyterian Church of New Zealand (1998). The BSA has to tread a fine line between free speech and upholding broadcaster accountability. Which way would any complaint about Tamaki's latest outburst go? I hope this report clarified matters. Craig Young - 17th August 2003    
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